Sunday, 23 November 2014

Navigational Hunt

The navigator is in her natural habitat. On a mission to track down a paper map. The kill might be the desired result, but at times I sometimes wonder if the stalk isn't more exciting. In this age of digital mapping you might assume that what's on offer on our tablet would be adequate. We set off on this trip with that premise. No paper maps. It was at first exciting, gone the half kilo of, at times dubious information. Being able to press a few keys and, especially for me, if, as by magic, we had a new map for a new country. Being open source, it was even free. Rolling into a new town, flicking fingers and we knew where a hostal, campground or mercado were. No more going around in ever decreasing Blocks and squares tracking down each new and differing local's favoured shop or second cousin's accommodation. And yet. There's no substitute for sitting staring at a giant piece of paper on the floor. It's an essay of infinite words. So many possibilities, so many permutations, so many journeys.
Copec is an Exxon Mobil company that sells petrol. They also justifiably have the reputation for producing the best Chile road map. We know they exist, as we eventually tracked one down last year. The navigator can spot their telltale blue red and white logo at any distance. We start the hunt. Soon learning that map sales are the responsibility of the pump attendants and not the shop assistants. Many are helpful, going raking in cupboards, but all to no avail. The stalk reaches double figures with no map; it's becoming a game. Then a modicum of success. One man unearths an Esso edition from the bottom of a drawer, dated circa 1985. Well the towns will be in the right places, but many of the roads have moved. With still no success we're about to give in when she gets a bit of useful intelligence. This year's edition has sold out, next year's still to be printed. Best to head for a city bookshop and try for a generic map. Only it takes a certain level of population to support a bookseller, so we head for Valparaiso. It's fun to have a frivolous purpose when wandering a new place. So often you will end up in an interesting situation. That 'interest' can, on occasions be more of a euphemism, red light districts and wrong side of the tracks being two of the navigator's specialist destinations.
We find the bookshop by chance and now have a map. Whereupon the next petrol station that we stop at to use their bathrooms has just one road atlas left. Of course we have to purchase it. Suddenly we're back with that half kilo of mapping paper. Is there a phobianomic for those who can't leave home without a map? If so, we're both afflicted; fortunately it's easily treated. Buy a map.